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Dec 9, 2010 11:24 AM

Seeking Incredibly Inexpensive Meals in Northern NJ

I've got no time, and, unfortunately, don't have the budget to eat out. I've scoured the freezer section for semi-nutritious food choices and, unfortunately, it's all a starch fest.

Presently, if I don't have time to cook for myself, I have two options: ~$10 to gorge on an Indian buffet lunch or $2 for two buck doubles at Burger King. Buck doubles are stretching the semi-nutritious banner to it's limit, but, for me, if I can get that much meat for $2 and not have to cook, that's a victory. By the time you've eaten buck doubles every day for a week, though, the appeal wanes. Oh boy, does it wane.

What I'm really craving is some ready made inexpensive crucifer/meat combo. I like Stouffers chicken broccoli alfredo, but that's about 3 bites of chicken and even less of broccoli. I used to be able to get cauliflower at Indian buffets, but, these days, it appears to be mostly replaced by cheaper/starchier veggies like peas and corn. Forget about finding pre-prepared cabbage for a reasonable price.

I'm open to any and all options. All that I ask is that it's relatively close to the ~.3 lb. meat@$2 burger king value that I'm presently getting.

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  1. What town/s do you reside or work in?

    10 Replies
    1. re: fourunder

      I live in Morristown and occasionally commute to Leonia, but I'm open to just about anywhere in the populated areas of Northern NJ.

      Frozen options are welcome as well- and those should be a little less location specific, as we all pretty much have the same supermarkets everywhere.

      1. re: scott123

        The only thing I can think of for two bucks that will actually be real meat is the 4-5 dumplings for a buck at Top Quality Asian Market in Parsippany on Route 46. If you can up the ante to 4.50-6.00 bucks, you can get 3 items with rice and greatly expand your selections. If you are willing to venture to River Edge, they also have a similar food counter with the same deal for $4.50. They also have Pan Fried Buns with pork and cabbage and the other with pork and chives...they cost .65 cent and are the better than buck doubles.

        Also in the 5-6.00 range, you should hit up some of the Polish Markets where they also have meat, potatoes and vegetable plates that are very good. You can add soup for .50 cents. Some of the dishes can easily be stretched to two meals for some, not for me , but maybe for you. There's a place on Beverwyke Road in the Lake Hiawatha section of Parsippany.

        I would suggest you look for a Latin cafeteria. They also have the same type of hot table setup with different selections on a weekly menu. There's a Colombian Store on the corner of Newman and Essex Streets in Hackensack is a popular place. You can get beef, pork and chicken dishes every day....and fish on Fridays. All the dishes come with rice and beans.

        1. re: fourunder

          I can't tell you how many minutes I've stood in front of the prepared food counter at Top Quality, overwhelmed by the options. Do they have different dumplings, and, if so, which ones do you recommend?

          I do the majority of my grocery shopping at Shop Rite in Parsippany, so the Beverwyck Road rec is very useful.

          That Colombian place in Hackensack- what kind of price is a dish? Can I get away without speaking Spanish?

          Edit: I just googled "Polish Deli Beverwyck" and came up with 'Taste of Europe Polish Deli.' Does that sound about right? If I could actually score some affordable cooked cabbage, I would be ecstatic.

          1. re: scott123

            Top Quality has a cigar shaped dumpling only and a more expensive fried bun. Both have the same pork filling.....go with the dumplings....the buns are good, but little meat to bread ratio.

            I'm pretty sure the Colombian place is called La Costena. They have the daily menu in both Spanish and English on the wall. You will not have problems ordering. All I do is point to what I want. These type of places re generally very inexpensive. The Roast Pork and Ox Tails are the only expensive items for meat....Shrimp is higher too. I always get the large, so I do not know what the smaller size costs....A quarter chicken with rice and beans is probably around 4 bucks I imagine. Probable the same for the small tins. Let's say you want one pork chop, you get the small tin....if you want two chops, you get the large tin. That's how it works. The tin size is the base cost. Empanadas and Croquettes are .75 - 1.50.

            Pollos Mario is also in Hackensack down by the Court House on Main Street. A little more expensive, but I know many who go there for lunch and get take-out for dinner.


            There's a similar cafeteria/luncheonette on Parsippany Road just past Frank & Sons Pizza on the left next to the Chinese take-out. If you are ever in North Bergen, Guttenberg, West New York or Union City, these places are even cheaper and the portions are larger. A walk up and down Bergenline Avenue is great if you like Latin foods. A good Cubano sandwich will only cost 3-4 bucks.

            Pollos Mario
            63 Main St, Hackensack, NJ 07601

            1. re: scott123

              I bought enough Bigos , Polish Hunters stew , for two dinners for less than $4 at a Polish Deli in North Trenton . They had stuffed cabbage too for a good price .

              Polish Deli
              11 S Wood Ave, Linden, NJ 07036

              1. re: scott123

                I haven't had the opportunity to compare all of the Columbian places in Hackensack, but I've been pretty happy with Citrus Cafe on Main Street. The empenadas are around $2, maybe less, and are really good; I've been waiting for an order and seen people just come in for a few empenadas and be on their way. They also serve arepas. The platters are from $10-15, but with the rice and beans they come with you can definitely stretch them into two days worth of food easily.

                1. re: scott123

                  Re: Polish.......That's the place, however the last time I passed there were some changes and new yellow signage in front, so I suspect there may have been a change in ownership made. I would imagine the business model is still the same. If you are ever in Garfield or Wallington, the big places to go to are Piast and Super Deli. The Golden Eagle is also popular and preferred by my Polish friends.

                  Since you mentioned you enjoy Indian Foods, have you ever stopped @ Patel Brothers or the other Indian stores on the east side of Route 46 in Parsippany. A visit may prove to be fruitful.

                  800 River Dr, Garfield, NJ 07026

                  Golden Eagle
                  452 Lanza Ave, Garfield, NJ 07026

                  Super Deli
                  125 Wallington Ave, Wallington, NJ 07057

                  1. re: scott123

                    Pollos Mario may be what you're thinking of, Scott, and it would be great for you if it's not too out of the way. No, you don't need to speak Spanish; there's a special takeout counter and the employees are helpful and bilingual. You can get a whole chicken and a quart each of yellow rice and great, pork-flavored beans that will keep you fed for days for not much money. (Sorry, I can't remember the price because I haven't been there in awhile, but it is cheap and good.)

                    Pollos Mario
                    63 Main St, Hackensack, NJ 07601

                2. re: scott123

                  You live in Morristown? Man, you have one of the most awesome cheap eats restaurants right in your town: Raul's Empanadas.

                  I don't know how the guy does it. Dozens of different kinds of empanadas, filled with all kinds of meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits, chocolate, etc. Most are around $2.50 or $3 each, and if you don't have a crazy appetite, one could easily serve as a lunch. They keep well left over too.

                  I live about 40 minutes away from Morristown, and I don't know the area at all, but I sometimes make the trip just to get these awesome empanadas.

                  He used to have a website, but it appears to be down. He's at 63 Morris Street. Check the place out!

                  1. re: zhelder

                    I just got back from my very first visit to Raul's. It was... good. I went with the least expensive meat versions that they offer (chicken, beef and sausage), and, while the sausage was very good... I wasn't blown away by how good they were. The chicken and beef were a little dry. Looking back, I probably should have had them with some sauce. As far as food value goes. Meat wise, I would say 3 empanadas is probably about as much meat as two buck doubles (sorry, that's my frugality baseline), and, at 7.25, a little out of my realm. Besides, in order to really do this place justice, one would need to go with the upper shelf selections like the 3rd heaven. As you get into those, this could easily be a 15.00 meal for a hearty eater. Not bad for price gougey Morristown, but out of my league. At least, for daily food options. For special occasions, I'll probably go back.

                    About a year and a half ago Tower Isles reformulated their Jamaican patties to contain about half the meat that they use to hold. As they exist now, they're hard to compare to Raul's, but, pre-reformulation, they pwned Raul's in both quality and price (4.50 for 3 patties, each of which was about one and a half empanadas). Had I not had such a vivid memory of consuming countless patties, I probably would be more excited about Raul's. I'll take a frozen Jamaican patty (done well- if that exists) over a freshly prepared empanada- at least the ones I had today. As I said, I will be back for the upscale stuff.

              2. If you can find any Polish/Hungarian delis you can do well for little money !

                  1. You can buy a roasted chicken at many big supermarkets (ShopRite springs to mind) for $4 bucks, and that would be two nights of protein. The food court in the Lyndhurst Shop Rite sells steamed fresh veggies, and other decent food that they make on the premises.

                    1. I often need to eat out cheaply. Here's one trick I've found. Find a chinese takeout place that offers Dim Sum. They usually charge $5-7 for it. Then order a small Wonton Soup. You'll get 4-5 Wontons in chicken broth. Get a small rice on the side and the total is $3. If you like you can dump the rice into the soup after you've eaten the Wontons.